A Heavenly Vintage is a 2009 internationally co-produced romantic drama film co-written and directed by Niki Caro. It is loosely based on the novel The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox. The film had its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September 2009.
The film stars Jérémie Renier, Vera Farmiga, Gaspard Ulliel, and Keisha Castle-Hughes. This marks the second time Caro has worked with New Zealand actress Castle-Hughes, who was nominated for an Academy Award at age 13 for her role in Caro's international breakthrough Whale Rider in 2002.
The passionate tale of Sobran Jodeau (Jérémie Renier), an ambitious young peasant winemaker and the three loves of his life – his beautiful wife Celeste (Keisha Castle-Hughes), the proudly intellectual baroness Aurora de Valday (Vera Farmiga) and Xas (Gaspard Ulliel), an angel who strikes up an unlikely but enduring friendship that borders on eroticism with him.
Under Xas' guidance, Sobran is forced to fathom the nature of love and belief and in the process grapples with the sensual, the sacred and the profane – in pursuit of the perfect vintage.
The film was directed by Niki Caro and co-written by Caro and Joan Scheckel. The film is based on the novel The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox. Knox, the writer of the book, was disappointed at the direction the film took as she felt Niki Caro "took out what the book was actually about", referring to the romantic relationship between Sobran and Xas, which was a core aspect of the novel and was very noticeably toned down in the film version, even though it still hints at it. The film was shot in Auckland, New Zealand, Belgium, and France – including in the medieval castle of Berzé.
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September 2009. It was later released in New Zealand on 12 November 2009, Australia on 14 January 2010, and Japan on 23 October 2010. In the United States, the film opened at the Sedona Film Festival on 23 February 2011. It was released to French cinemas on 25 January 2012. The film was released on DVD in the UK on 20 September 2010, in Germany on 16 March 2012, and in the United States on 17 April 2012.
The film has received polarized responses since the Toronto Film Festival. Paul Fischer of Dark Horizons said: "A film about humanity and spirituality, Caro directs this film with an exquisite sense of detail. Gorgeous in all facets of visual detail, The Vintner’s Luck is also a fascinating romantic melodrama, and at its core, comprises a cast that is spot on." Peter Brunette of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "It's difficult to believe that the same director who made the simple and affecting Whale Rider in 2002 is responsible for The Vintner's Luck, an overblown work of amazing silliness." Justin Chang for Variety wrote, "Caro never finds the emotional pulse of the story." However, he praised the "lyrical widescreen cinematography." Kate Rodger of 3 News said, "For me, The Vintner's Luck was a gorgeous collection of imagery, sound and movement, with moments of intoxicating beauty."